One of the great things about Christmas time is that most people understand that time is short and stress is rampant and they try to extend a bit of grace to their fellow man. Some of the most cheerful people are the ones on the front lines.
Here's a shout out to Carlos at Target for checking out with a smile, a joke, and a wink. He asked the lady in front of me in line, who was around my age, for her ID since she was buying a bottle of wine. He studied it a moment and said, "I'm sorry, miss, you'll have to come back when you're 21 to buy this." I don't know if she was amused, but I gave him full marks for trying for a smile.
Next up, the amazing lady at the post office who turned my dreaded trek with 6 boxes, one of them international, into a quick and easy stop. She was fast and efficient, as well as polite and cheerful. Don't underestimate those postal workers!
Finally, the wonderful women who make up the Bread Baking Babes. They give me way more grace than I deserve (well, that's kind of the point of grace, isn't it?). I totally fluffed on the posting day for this month's bread and didn't get it baked till two days later. Oops. But I did get it done. And it would have been a shame to have missed this one. It's festive, beautiful, and makes my husband and son very happy. So, better late than never, right?
And if you've not yet mailed cards, wrapped gifts, or done whatever you think HAS to be by Christmas, just remember, it will come whether you're ready or not. Even if your to-do list is not all checked off, just make sure your heart is ready. And if you've got some spare time, you can join me in being a Bread Baking Buddy for this beautiful Viennese Striesel. And if you don't have time for that, you can just check out the lovely loaves from the other Babes and ooh and aah. Thanks, Katie, for this perfect Christmas bread!
1 package active dry yeast
1/4 cup very warm water
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tbs butter, melted
2 3/4 - 3 cups flour
1 egg, lightly whisked
1/4 cup seedless raisins
1/4 cup candied cherries, chopped
2 tbs candied orange peel, chopped
1/8 tsp mace
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
1 tbs milk
almonds or walnuts for sprinkling
1- Dissolve yeast in warm water.
2- Scald milk. Put milk, sugar, butter, and salt in bowl of mixer. Cool until just warm. Stir in 1 cup of flour. Mix in dissolved yeast and egg. Add 1 cup flour and stir to incorporate.
3- Add fruit and mace to the dough, then stir in 3/4 cups of flour. If the dough is still sticky, add up to 1/4 cup more flour, 1 Tbsp at a time, kneading till the dough is smooth.
4 -Shape into a ball, place in lightly greased bowl, cover and let rise until doubled, about 2 1/4 hours.
5- Punch down. Divide into 9 pieces, shape each into a ball and let rest 5 minutes.
6- Roll each piece into a rope about 15" long. Lay 4 strands on a lightly greased baking sheet, overlapping at the center. Braid from the center toward each end. With the side of your hand make a trench down the center. Now braid 3 strands, also from the center to each end, and place in the 'trench'. Twist the 2 remaining strands loosely together and place on top, bringing the ends over the end of the loaf and tucking in.
7- Cover loosely with plastic wrap sprayed with cooking spray, and let rise until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours. (I did this rise overnight in my refrigerator).
8- Bake, 350F (175C) for 40 - 45 minutes. Check after 30 minutes and if bread is browning too rapidly, tent foil over it. Remove and cool on a wire rack.
9- When bread is cool, mix milk and sugar -drizzle frosting over the top of the cooled loaf. Sprinkle with nuts.